I assume you don’t have to think too long and hard before answering the above question. No, that would be a negative. Do I look like someone who wants to wander in the wilderness for 40 years?
I’m not going to try and answer that; instead, I’d like to highlight one of the ways God seems to grow us and let you answer the question for yourself. You may be surprised.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, there is only one reason the Israelites hiked around in nowhere-ness for four decades. They didn’t want to cross over into a better place. They didn’t want to enter Canaan’s Land—a name that to this day evokes a sense of arriving and goodness, even to the most biblically illiterate among us.
Their Comfort Zone
Those freed slaves rushed up to the border of a land that God said was theirs and were told (and even shown) that it was flowing with milk and honey (wow), but they were afraid to move on and move in. It was scary; they’d have to face fears and resistance and take significant personal risks. As dusty as the desert floor was and as relentless as the sun could be—not to mention the limited water and lack of fresh fruits and veggies—our ancestors shrunk back from something better. It was too far out of their comfort zone. Their comfort zone was the wilderness.
So began a loop through the desert that would culminate right back at the door to Canaan many years later. Yes, and so we see the patience, mercy, and persistence of Almighty God. I like to break it down like this.
His Leading, Our Free Choice
God desires to lead us all out of the wilderness wastelands of our self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. This is His plan. But if we refuse to enter a better place, God, the respecter of free will (like no other), will not shove us over the line to better days but instead bring us back to that same place where growth and better choices and a better life await.
He will gently guide us back to the door to change and if we slam it again, guess what? He’ll do it again and again, ad nauseam. God is patient. He’s that parent who wants good for His kids but knows they must choose it for themselves to be real and mean anything.
So you’re friends with someone up to the point where you see their ugliness, and then you abandon them. You cannot (for your self-fears and maybe self-hatred) accept the faults in another that highlight yours, so you’re gone. Well, guess what? God takes note. He desires you to confess, acknowledge, and let go of your pain and fears. He wants you to know the only way to do that is in community—so you’ll be there again in a few years—or maybe even months—in another friendship that reaches that same tipping point. And will you run away this time? Maybe.
The Good News
The good news in all of this is that God dotes on you like a favorite child. He is fond of you, as fond of you as He is patient, respectful, and hopeful. In other words, God is not biting His nails when you bag that third marriage and run for the hills to hide and feel in control again. No, He gets it. You’re hurt and scared. You’re not ready—maybe not desperate enough—to face the stuff that drives your poor choices.
God is not fearful. He watches you hike back into the desert with the knowingness of a parent who’s watched this kind of behavior for millennia. Yes, and then He begins to hope again, to think about bringing you back to that same place so you can finally step through, get healing, and do the work you need to so you can blossom and grow in a relationship.
And so the story goes. All our stories—I might add. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t pick a good long hike in the desert one or more times in their life journey. The fact is that sometimes it takes time to learn, experience, and grow, time to fail, so we know that failing and quitting don’t work.
Yes, and sometimes we (the truly stubborn among us) just have to spend so much time in the wilderness that we build up enough hatred for it that our fear of the new is not as strong as our fear of returning to the old. Whatever the case, God, without causing or creating these poor experiences, will bless them for our good—again and again, and again.
What Is It?
So now let’s get personal. Do you keep having those work-related issues that won’t go away? Do your friends keep treating you badly? You can’t seem to date anyone unless they’re unsafe and immature? Or is it the fact that you seem to run into the same spiritual snags that trip you up, those obnoxious (forgive the ancient word) besetting sins? Well, what is it? Because whatever continues to take center stage in your life is something you need to deal with and cross over. It will not go away no matter how often you leave it behind or run away from it. There’s growth that needs to take place in you, and for this reason, the opportunities for choosing that growth will keep presenting themselves.
Trust me. I write not only from a wealth of biblical knowledge (go read the story of the great king of Babylon, the story of King Saul, the story of Abraham, Isaac, or even Jacob) but also from a wealth of personal data. I’ve done a wilderness trip more than once. I know the difference between rushing back into the bushes vs. facing myself, opening up, following God’s lead, and crossing over into a better place.
We Are Not Victims
All you need to remember is that we are not victims, we are not helpless, and we are not without all the power of Jesus. We were created (read Genesis 1:27-29) to have mastery and authority over our lives. This is our birthright, and we can choose a better future no matter how risky and new it feels. God wants to lead you to a better place, then a better place, and so on.
It’s a very refreshing way to live. The desert, after all, isn’t a very fun place at all. So go look in the mirror and tell yourself you deserve better. Tell yourself that God is with you, will guide you, and can be trusted. And then make a pact with yourself that you will say yes the next time a place for growth, healthiness, and scary newness comes your way.
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Claire Worley writes from the Pacific Northwest.© 2002 - 2022, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.